By Sally A. Schwartz
When Freeman Promotions out of Long
Branch, New Jersey, contacted me regarding a possible interview with a
hard working band, I realized that I couldnít deny the opportunity to
share with you, DaBelly readers, what Clutch has going on. So it was
an honor that Jean Paul (JP) Gaster took time out of his busy touring
schedule to speak with me. Here is what he had to say:
DB: Jon Freeman set up this interview
for us so we can thank him for that. So howís your tour going?
JP: Itís going great! We love being on
tour with Motorhead, itís very inspiring to watch these guys play
every night. It's one of the best bands I have ever been on tour with.
DB: Thatís awesome to hear. Youíre in
Kansas City today?
JP: Yes, thatís correct.
DB: And youíre in Indianapolis
DB: Last night you were in Milwaukee,
my hometown, how did it go?
JP: It was great! We played at the Rave
last night. I think I have never NOT seen that place so full.
DB: The Rave is the Eagles Club right?
JP: Yeah, thatís correct.
DB: Thatís so cool. That club has seen
so many awesome gigs. So youíre settling in and comfortable with the
JP: Yes, everyone is getting along. The
tour is going great. Weíre just a couple of bands playing rock and
roll. Itís a great bill and we are just really enjoying being out
DB: Itís fantastic when you can enjoy
your work. I do have a few questions for you, but before I get into
the band, can you tell me a little about yourself and what have been
your biggest influences?
JP: Speaking just from a drummerís
perspective, Elvin Jones. He has provided me with many years and years
of inspiration. I continue to go back and listen to his recordings
with John Coltrane. You know, you always hear new things and discover
new things regarding how he played the drums. Although Iím not a jazz
drummer, I study jazz as much as I can. To me, that is the real
history of the instrument. I think you need to know what it means to
play jazz and what it means to play ďjazz time,Ē so yeah, heís been a
really great source of inspiration to me. By coming out, we really
have gotten to see some really great bands like Fugazzi and The Bad
Brains. We also have to see some go-go bands too a lot, like Chuck
Brown and the Soul Searchers or Experience Unlimited. So itís been
kind of a mish-mash of all things that have come together, that made
me play the way I do and I think that is what makes the band sound the
way it does.
DB: I understand what youíre saying.
It's about listening to what is going on around you, I think, that
helps one be a better musician right?
JP: Yeah, I think that is what most
experienced players will do. I know that my favorite players do that
when they are put into a new situation or even if they are just
playing a setÖ The first thing they do, it's not necessarily to play,
but to listen to what is going on around them. My least favorite guys
to play with are those that are not paying attention to what is going
on around them. They decide to just get up there and shred and make it
a chopfest and that is not all what makes music for me. So itís
important that you listen to one another before you do anything.
DB So then who is your favorite drummer
JP: Well, like I had said, Elvin Jones
for sure. I think that he really transcends the genre of jazz. You
know he was just a great drummer period. But then again I get a lot of
inspiration from reggae, I love to listen to King Tubby. There are
many great drummers there too and the interesting thing there is that
everyone has their own take on what that style is to them. So you have
Carlton Barrett that used to play with Bob Marley and the Upstetters, his
approach was very, very different than say Horsemouth, you know itís a
really personal way of looking at the music. So I definitely draw a
lot of inspiration from the reggae drummers too, I gain a lot of
inspiration from Zigaboo and the Meters. I really love Zigaboo
Modeliste, heís easily one of my favorite drummers and somebody that I
listen to every day.
DB: I really do love talking about
reggae and I have to say that I really love that stuff. You could have
the worst day ever and put that music on and itís like it instantly
becomes a better day.
JP: Absolutely. You can put that stuff
on and it instantly transports you to a much better and kinder place.
DB: Yeah. Exactly. You know you have
collaborated on a few projects in your career as a drummer, what
projects were those?
JP: I guess the most recent thing that
I did was that I played on Scott Weinrichís solo album. Some people
know him as Whino. He is a heavyweight, an absolute power house. Heís
an amazing guitarist and a really excellent songwriter. He is
definitely someone I look forward to playing with. I was really proud
of the work that I did with him.
I also have worked on a side project
called King Hobo. Which are myself and Per Wiberg, who plays keyboards
for Opeth and two other Swedish musicians, Ulf Rockis, who plays a
monster bass, and my very good friend, Thomas Anderson, from a band
called Kamchatka, who plays guitar. Those guys are all just monster
players and are really, really easy to play with and to just hang out
with. They are really easy to get along with. Itís really interesting
to play with these guys because a lot of the time there isnít a lot of
English being spoken in the room, but for me, I am always looking to
play with whomever because, for me, that has always been a great
challenge to put yourself in a completely new situation and inevitably
when you do that as a musician, you come away being a better musician
for it. There is going to be some good music that is going to happen
and those experiences are going to contribute to the way you view
music in the future. Itís a give and take.
DB: Yeah, it is. I heard a quote that
you gave once somewhere that I thought profound. It was, ďI think that
the artistís main concern should be to concentrate on their live
performance and be the best that they can be.Ē Why do you feel that
one should concentrate on the live performance?
JP: For me personally, I am very, very
lucky to do what I do for a living-- playing drums. So I donít take it
for granted. That means practicing; to this day I still
practice, hopefully every day. When Iím on the road, that certainly is
the case and when Iím at home, that is almost always the case, unless
I have chores to do around the house.
DB: Yeah, everyone has that honey-do
JP: Yeah, yeah exactly. But you have to
carve out time to really sit down and practice and there is a
difference between practicing and playing. Itís really great to put on
some of your favorite music and just jam, but to practice means that
you work on things you donít necessarily know-- inside and out. So
there is always room for improvement there and work these concepts
into a live situation as well. You just have to constantly be
attentive to your instrument and donít take it for granted. I love
playing the drums and I plan on doing that for the rest of my life.
DB: When youíre practicing, do you
throw in something new? Something that you wouldnít normally think
JP: Oh yeah, absolutely. That is what
practice is about. I still carry some old drum books that you can
reinterpret in different ways. One of my favorite books is
ďSyncopation, " on the surface, that book looks very elementary, but
it really is how you imply it. I enjoy my books. I put my headphones
on and people can be doing soundchecks or buzzing all around and I
have my headphones on, break out that book and just go for it. I start
thinking about new ways in looking at that book. I try not to do the
same old stuff; you know when something becomes slight and second
nature itís not going to make it difficult.
DP: You have been with your bandmates,
Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, and Dan Maines, since 1990, how did the four of
you come together and form Clutch?
JP: We went to high school together and
in our senior year we made a very terrible hard-core band. (Laughs).
We were not very good at it, but we enjoyed playing music a lot and it
took us a couple of years before we reformed our band as Clutch and
took it as seriously as we did. But all along the way, we kept in
touch and went to shows together. Music was definitely the thing that
made us really want to hang out with each other. After a couple years
of being out of high school, we were able to get this band together
and hit the road immediately.
DB: Itís amazing how music is such a
universal language in getting people together. I remember a time when
my husband got back together with some bandmates for one of the
member's weddings and they got up and played at the reception. The
hair-raising, better-than-sex feeling that they all said that came
over them was a feeling that they played forward to everyone that was
there that night.
JP: Yeah and itís great to see that
too. And that feeling is unbelievable too.
DB: Not only did you form the band, but
you also formed your own label, Weathermaker Music.
JP: Yep. Yep, thatís correct.
DB: What made you decide to form your
JP: We finished our contract with DRT
and the contract that we did at the time was supposed to be a pretty
artist-friendly kind of a deal. It was suppose to be a 50/50 deal, it
was kind of a buzzword going around back then. But the trouble with
that is that the label has to pay their 50 percent and that is where
the problem lies. We made three records for DRT, about halfway through
that deal went very sour and we knew that we just couldnít go back to
Prior to DRT, we had been on Atlantic;
before that we were on Sony and then we were back on Atlantic, then we
were on East West Electra. All through the Ď90s we were on all kinds
of major labels. We thought we were doing something different when we
signed with DRT and itís sad to say that it had not been true, so we
realized that it was time to do this thing. We realized that we
couldnít sign again with another label and it was time to take this
step. So that is what we did and it is by far the best thing that we
have done pulling all of the politics out of the mix and pulling all
of the headaches that come with label managers and the A& R reps and
publicists and all that stuff. When you pull all that out of the mix
and you can handle it all on your own, it makes being in a band that
much more fun and enjoyable.
DB: Are you starting to see a trend in
bands forming their own labels with in the music industry? DaBelly.com
has actually come across and been introduced to a few bands that have
formed their own labels. So do you think that this the trend and the
norm for bands in this day and age?
JP: UmÖyeah I think so, but not with
just bands forming their own labels, but the fact that bands are not
relying on established ways of doing business. Up until not too long
ago, if you werenít signed with a major label, you could just hang it
up because no one was going to take you seriously. Now there are all
kinds of things going on. Most bands are getting together and starting
their own labels. Itís not uncommon of hearing of a couple of bands
getting together and forming their own labels, as well pooling
resources. So yeah, I think that is the only way you can look at this
business these days. I think getting signed to a major label is even
more farfetched than what it was 10 or 15 years ago. Then if you do
get signed by a major label, itís going to be a really difficult
relationship to be in, because now more than ever, these major labels
are going to need to see large sales and that is because they are
really struggling. So yeah, I do think that bands are starting to take
things into their own hands.
DB: Do you think that itís because of
all the high tech accessibility to the information to do it on your
own and to the Internet and being able to reach your fan base a lot
more readily than before?
JP: Sure, that has a lot to do with
it, the ability to be in contact with so many more people. Bands can
sell their music online and you donít have to be a slave to the way
things used to be and to labels anymore. And the labels, itís really
just as much their fault because for many years they put out records
that werenít up to par and people stopped buying them. People didnít
want to pay out money for an album that had maybe one or two good
songs on it, so they pretty much brought it on themselves.
DB: I understand what youíre saying. We
have heard in the past that bands would be under contract and put in
situations where they had to produce an album and it didnít matter
that bands were being forced to produce albums that they didnít feel
were noteworthy. The bands knew that their fan base wouldnít want it,
but the labels didnít or wouldnít listen or, for that matter, care.,
they just wanted their contract fulfilled. So you were pretty much at
their mercy, right?
JP: Back in the Ď90s, the labels were
like, "You guys will have full creativity, and you guys can make what
ever kind of album you want." But then at the very last minute it was
them saying, ďOh and by the way. Can you guys give us one hit?Ē But at
the end of the day, the thing is we would like a hit just as much as
they would like a hit, but I think our version of a hit was different
from their version of a hit. Really and truly, we couldnít write one
of those kinds of hits even if we tried because we did, we tried to
write one of those kinds of songs, one that could get on the radio,
but we couldnít because itís not in our nature to do it. We literally
donít know how to make that kind of a song. Every time we trie,d it
would come out just like another Clutch song. (Laughs). For us, we
would be really excited about it because we would have this Clutch
song that is supposed to be a single and the label immediately starts
to put together some kind of a radio campaign, so you have to go play
for all of these radio stations because that is all part of the
political game as well. Even though youíre doing all these things,
youíre only getting a couple few cents a week and itís because you
donít sound like Nickleback. That is where rock radio was 10 years ago
and I donít think that things have changed that much at all.
DB: I hear that you, Clutch, do on
average 100 or more gigs in a year, would you say that Clutch is more
of a live band than a studio band?
JP: The road has always been where we
made our bread and butter. As time and years go on, I donít think that
we tour as many times as we had in the earlier days, but still we play
a minimum of 100 shows a year, every year, regardless if we have a new
record out or not.
DB: Do you get contacted or approached
by other bands to go on tour with, such as Motorhead, or do you have
to petition for certain tours?
JP: We actually had been approached by
them. This is our second time on tour with them, so that is a pretty
good feeling to know that someone over there really likes us. But that
too, getting on certain tours, is kind of a political thing. There are
certain things that are involved, there are mangers involved and
ultimately there are band members that are involved, booking agents
are involved because they want to get you on certain tours. There are
a lot of things that go onÖ and at the end of the day it has to make
financial sense to everybody involved. So it isnít super easy.
DB: Do you have your own booking agent
or PR person or do you, as a band, do on your own?
JP: Oh yeah, of course. We have our own
booking agent Tim Borron and our general manager is Jon Nacdachone. We
have worked with them for many years and this time in our career the
bandís name, Clutch, stands for itself. They know we are going to be
worth the tickets sales here in the U.S. and Canada. Weíre doing much
better in Europe these days, those countries are coming around to our
music. After 20 years, there arenít any surprises. When we get to a
venue, a promoter knows how many people are going to be there, so that
is a pretty good feeling.
DB: Do you feel that maybe it's because
the band offers more of a chance to really connect with the fan base
by touring as much as you and that by doing so, it offers Clutch more
success while on the road?
JP: Yeah, I think that for a band that
markets and runs their own label and has been around for as long as we
have, Iím certainly not complaining about the number of records that
we sell, but still at the end of the day we still very much a live
band, thatís what helps to build our reputation, just playing and
playing and being the best that we can be at playing as hard as we can
every night. To keep things fresh, there are spots for improvisation.
Even when weíre on tour with bands like Motorhead and sets are shorter
than what they would be normally, we do reach out where we look for
the moment where we can stretch out a little bit and say something
different than we did last night hopefully. I think that the folks
that come to see the show realize that and realize that it's a real
live rock and roll show. Sometimes there are mistakes on stage and
sometimes we play perfectly, itís an honest attempt at making a real
honest attempt every night.
DB: Do you feel that this is what gives
Clutch the unique edge that it has?
JP: Oh yeah, Iím sure of it.
DB: You had stated that you always
switch up the playlist, is it true that you never try to play the same
play list twice?
JP: We only have so many songs and you
can only put them in so many orders, but the attempt is to never
repeat ourselves o,r at least try not to anyway. But in the end, I
donít think that we are trying to come up with a completely different
set list, but by moving certain songs around helps to keep things
fresh for us and by thinking about putting jams in certain spots help
to keep that night's set unique unto it self.
DB: Do you collaborate and pool your
ideas or do you take turns in creating set lists?
JP: We take turns. (Laughs). We do it
in alphabetical order-- by first names.
DB: (Laughs) Wow, thatís a really high
JP: Yeah, we started doing that way
back in 1996. I donít remember how we even came up with that idea, but
it works and I think that was just really brilliant at the time and
you know it works and we havenít and donít plan on changing that
DB: Hey, if it works. I know that you
have toured with such bands as Pantera, Monster Magnet and Sutura, how
did this recent tour with Motorhead and Valiant Thorr come about?
JP: We had headed out with these guys
out in the U.K. about three years ago, it went really well and I think
that the two bands play well together. So Iím not exactly sure how it
came about, I think it was Lemmy who had said that he wanted Clutch.
DB: I saw Lemmy on ďThat Metal ShowĒ on
VH1, he was hilarious. Heís really funny. You donít often get to see
that sid,e so that was really nice.
JP: Heís awesomeÖ Heís an absolute
beast. The band is just so crushing,they play just so good every
night. He is just an absolute force and I just really love watching
DB: Now my understanding is that youíre
on tour promoting your reissue of the album, "Blast Tyrant," that was
released in 2004, is that right?
JP: Yeah, yeah thatís right. "Blast
Tyrant" is was on of the albums we put out on DRT. When we finished
the lawsuit, we were able to get all those songs back and "Blast
Tyrant" is one of the last albums we are going to re-release from the
DB: Now this is a two-disc CD with the
second CD called "Basket of Eggs," is that right?
JP: Yeah thatís right. One CD is going
to be the original and the second one is going to have demos of some
of the songs from "Blast Tyrant. Also there are going to be some
acoustic versions of some of the songs, some of them from "Blast
Tyrant," some others are not. One of the songs is actually a cover of
an old rock and roll singer named Cousin Joe and that song is actually
called ďBox Car Shortyís Confession.Ē That one was a real challenge to
play, it has a really fast shuffle and itís really hard to play that
stuff. So yeah, that was a real challenge to play, which is really
fun to do and that is on the second disc as well.
DB: Are some of the songs what you
would call rarities from a multitude of Clutch collections?
JP: Yeah, some of them are. Some of
them are from "Tyrant."
Here I am sorry to say that we started
to experience some technical difficulties, but once we got back on
track I had asked JP if there was anything he would like to share
with Clutch fans. And his response wasÖ
JP: We would like to thank all of our
fans for their support now and over the years. We look forward to
playing Arizona, we love it out there, so I hope that you get to check
out the show, the new CD and Motorhead and enjoy the show.
DB: Thank you, JP, for taking time out
of your busy schedule to speak with me and I am really looking forward
to checking out the show on the 10th of March at the Marquee. Take it
easy, have a great tour and have a safe journey on the way out to
JP: Awesome. No problem and it was nice
speaking with you too.
Every interview always has its own
dynamic realm. While speaking with JP, I learned a lot about the man
behind the drum kit, the band and the tour with Motorhead. Clutch is a
band that is very passionate about what they do and who they tour
with. They support one another, as well the bands they play with. Most
of all they play not just for their enjoyment, but you-- the fans and
if there is anything you take away from this interview it's that the
depth of Clutchís music goes deeper and beyond the stage. Again, thank
you JP for a great interview and to Jon Freeman at Freeman Promotions
for putting us in contact. It was a pleasure!
Catch Clutch on the road and learn more